By HOLLY SHOK
3:23 PM PDT, April 20, 2013
A boom bellowed and black smoke poured from the barrel’s mouth, but the caliber of sound the cannon made was only narrowly louder than the subsequent shrieks and gasps from the 12-and-younger crowd on Saturday at Antietam National Battlefield.
Junior Ranger Day, which was divvied into sections aimed at Civil War education as well as teaching those in attendance to be “stewards of the park,” drew about 150 children plus their families, park Ranger Christie Stanczak said.
Sam Cool of Hagerstown brought two of his daughters to the battlefield on what he termed a “staycation.”
“She studied the Civil War in school and this is firsthand experience — can’t beat it,” Cool, 47, said of his 9-year-old daughter, Molly, who described the day as “awesome.”
Park volunteers Tracey McIntire and Audrey Scanlan, outfitted in uniforms representing the Iron Brigade — regimes from Wisconsin and Indiana that fought in the cornfield at Antietam — demonstrated how soldiers fired artillery using black powder blanks.
“It’s a chance for kids to get really engaged and learn about the history that happened here 150 years ago,” McIntire said, referencing the Battle of Antietam, known as America’s bloodiest day that resulted in an estimated 23,110 casualties. “They get a chance to do hands-on infantry training, infantry drill as well as watch the cannon being loaded and fired. They get an idea of what went on here, what the real soldiers went through.”
Additional park volunteers, dressed in uniforms representing Battery B of the 4th U.S. Artillery, demonstrated how soldiers loaded and fired the cannon.
“Oh my goodness,” Connie Bonner, 44, exclaimed the second time the cannon sounded.
Bonner, along with her family, attended the day with Cub Scout Pack 42 of Charles Town, W.Va.
“This is the second time we’ve been up here. It’s great. The kids love it,” said Bonner, of Charles Town, looking to her 7-year-old son, Julius, for his affirmation. “I think it’s awesome.”
Bill Hubble, 36, of Frederick, Md., brought his son and daughter to the park for the first time for the day’s festivities.
Ethan, 10, summed up his thoughts of the day using one word: “Cool.”
McIntire, who volunteers at the park most weekends, agreed.
“I love history,” McIntire said. “I love passing on what I’ve learned, and I have an ancestor who fought here and I do some of this to honor him.
“This was one of the most significant battles in the Civil War, actually. As a result of the Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln was able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would end up freeing all of the slaves in the South. I think that’s a huge, important part of our history that people need to learn about.”
Junior Ranger Day is celebrated at many national parks, Stanczak said.